The DART List: A Week in New York

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday February 2, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 6:00-8:00 pm | Donna Karan and Valerie Steele at Parsons
Parsons The New School for Design presents an evening with alumna Donna Karan, who helped to initiate the school’s innovative new graduate program in fashion through her support. Karan will discuss her work and career, and how it has helped shape this new program. The conversation, moderated by Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, will launch Workwear, an exhibition and programming series exploring the legacy of workwear in American fashion and its influence on contemporary constructions of New York as a fashion capital. Free, limited seating, reservations required. Click for more information on the exhibition and public programs.
Parsons The New School for Design. 66 W. 12th St. Tishman Auditorium, New York, NY.

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Last year at Exit Art, left to right: The Labyrinth; David Sandlin makes a necessary correction; Seher Shah with her mural. Photos: Peggy Roalf.

Thursday, February 4, 7:00 pm | Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman on Iconic Shows: A talk with Exit Art’s Founders
Starting in 1982 with “Illegal America,” which used mimeographs, Xeroxes and other radical means to present multimedia artwork, Exit Art founders and creative directors Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman have mounted more than 100 groundbreaking presentations of art, theater, film and video. They will discuss some of the most iconic shows of this historic, independent New York City cultural space. and open to the public.

School of Visual Arts. 209 East 23 Street, 3rd-floor Amphitheater. Click for information.

Thursday, February 4, 6:00-8:00 pm | The Art of Archiving: Documenting Your Art Career
A presentation at A.I.R. Gallery by Marcia Bassett and Astrid Cravens, archivists at Barnard College, NY. The event will be an introduction to archiving for artists, with a tutorial/discussion atmosphere. RSVP required: Email Simone Meltesen to reserve your place.
A.I.R. Gallery. 111 Front Street, Suite 228, Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY. 212.255.6651.

Saturday, February 6, Noon-5:00 pm | Art Book Swap at MoMA
Art Book Swap New York is a free event organized by the nonprofit organizations Regency Arts Press Ltd. and the New Art Dealers Alliance in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art Library. The public is invited to swap any art books in good condition for any of the hundreds of art books donated by publishers, distributors, galleries and other art world professionals. All remaining books are then donated to prison libraries in New York City. Free and open to the public.
Museum of Modern Art, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, 4 West 54th Street, New York, NY. Email for information.

Wednesday, February 10, 6:30-8:30 | Bomb Magazine’s 11th Annual Americas Issue launch
El Museo del Barrio and BOMB Magazine celebrates its 11th annual Americas Issue with an evening of readings, conversations, and multimedia presentations dedicated to Colombia and Venezuela. Featuring Luis Molina Pantin’s narco-architecture photographs, videos by the Caracas-based team Nacimento/Lovera, Silvana Paternostro, Luis Enrique Perez-Oramas, Marc Nasdor on Colombia’s Frente Cumbiero, and others. Free and open to the public. Click for information.
El Museo del Barrio. 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, New York, NY.

Wednesday, February 10, 6:30 - 8:30pm | The Entrepreneurs at Galapagos Art Space
School of Visual Arts
presents the second lecture in its MFA Interaction Design Department spring Dot Dot Dot lecture series, which explores interaction design, business and aesthetic inspiration. Practitioners and leaders in the field give short talks in an informal environment intended to satisfy both social and scholarly pursuits. This month’s theme is The Entrepreneurs.
Galapagos Art Space
, 16 Main Street, Brooklyn. $ Admission is 6; free to SVA students, faculty and staff. RSVP required.

Thursday, February 11, 7:00-9:00 pm | Anti-Valentine’s Day party and reading from It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup
Jonathan Ames emcees a round-robin reading of humorous, wise, bitter, and uplifting breakup-inspired poetry from this new anthology. Poet and anthology editor Jerry Williams and contributing poets Bob Hicok, Donna Masini, and Mark Halliday will be on hand to read and discuss their love lives and their work. Click for information. Free and open to th public; RSVP required.
powerHouse Arena. 37 Main Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn. 718-666-3049 | www.powerhousearena.com

Friday, February 12, 6:00-9:00 pm | Book Arts Lounge: The Continuous Flexagon
The Center for Book Arts invites you to their monthly art-making workshop and open studio to create a moveable folded structure that yields intriguing possibilities. Artist and bookbinder Ana Cordeiro will lead us through conceptualization and construction of these delightful contraptions. Loungers will incorporate found text and pressure printing on the Vandercook printing press to create flexagons that might contain multiple meanings, hidden messages, or even secret Valentine’s signals. Bring along several words of found text, and ideas for interesting impressions: lace, string, or other flat and flexible texture-making items. Suggested donation: $10/$5 members
The Center for Book Arts, 28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, New York, NY. For information: 212.481.0295 or email.

THIS JUST IN: Seth will be in attendance at the opening of his exhibition at Adam Baumgold Gallery on Thursday, February 4, 6:00-8:00 pm. See yesterday’s DART.


Seth: A Search for The Meaning of Life

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 1, 2010

When the New York Times Magazine serialized George Sprott: 1894-1975 in its now defunct “Funny Pages” section, it brought to a wide audience the work of Seth, a Canadian comics artist, author and book designer whose own printed output arrives with long stretches between titles. Last year, Drawn & Quarterly released the story in book form, with additional narrative that brought the epic an edgier and more contemporary feel.

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Left: Viewer’s Guide, 2007. Right: Northern Hi-lights with George Sprott, 2007. Copyright Seth, courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery.

This week, Adam Baumgold Gallery opens an exhibition of 50 drawings, paintings on paper and sculpture for Seth’s first U.S. solo show. Mainly comprised of images from the celebrated graphic novel, it also includes 6 of the artist’s cardboard architectural models, constructed specifically for this show.

The story of George Sprott, an 81-year-old fictional TV personality in the last hours of life before his fatal heart attack, is melancholy, nostalgic, and inward looking. According to the press release, we come to know George in a series of interviews, flashbacks and personal reminiscences. It is a story about time, identity, loss, and the persistence of memory. In the end it is left to the reader to decide whether George’s existence was a life well lived or a tragedy of wasted potential.

Seth’s architectural settings are an important feature of the work, not just for the physical realism they bring to the stories but also as metaphors for much larger themes. But they can also be seen as metaphors for much larger themes. In their towering size and impassive facades, they might be speaking for the banality of everyday life, even for the loss of self in the globalization of small-town Ontario. Each model represents a specific location that can be associated with the character George Sprott.

These 3-D studies for Dominion City, the fictional name of George Sprott’s hometown, enable the artist to create a vivid scenario for his moody tales, which unfold through inventive devices that are unusual in the genre, such as interviews, movies of the character’s experiences in the Arctic, and characters who are collectors of all kinds of things, from arcane facts to photographs and scrapbooks. Also included in the exhibition are Seth’s original gouache and ink paintings from Aimee Mann’s 2002 album Lost in Space.

The opening reception for Seth: George Sprott 1894-1975 is Friday, February 5th from 6 to 8 pm. The show continues through March 13th. Adam Baumgold Gallery, 60 East 66th Street, New York, NY. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11:00 - 5:30 P.M. For additional information, please contact Adam Baumgold at (212)861-7338 or abaumgold@aol.com.

AND FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, see Jean-Philippe Delhomme on the subject of Drawings as Commentary on Wednesday, February 3rd at 7:00 pm. Delhomme is perhaps one of the most influential artist-illustrators working today. He is internationally known for his witty satirical illustrations that are as much gentle ribbing at the notion of the “good life” in the modern world as they are chronicles of the hip and fabulous. Presented by The Illustration Program Parsons The New School of Design, the event takes place in the Bark Room at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Ground Floor, 2 West 13th Street, New York, NY.

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Last Chance: Who Shot Rock & Roll

By Peggy Roalf   Friday January 29, 2010

FAIR WARNING: This weekend is your last chance to see an exhibition that celebrates the photographers who are the rock stars of their genre. If the music marked significant moments in your life, chances are there are photographs from those days that have also become part of your personal mythology - and chances are that you’ll find some of them in Who Shot Rock & Roll at the Brooklyn Museum, closing at 6:00 pm on Sunday.

Guest curated by Gail Buckland, the show opens with film footing of the King of Rock and Roll singing “Heartbreak Hotel.” Just around the corner, in the first section of the show devoted to young musicians at the beginning of their careers, there’s a group of still photos of Elvis at 21 by Alfred Wertheimer.

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Left: Patti Smith, 1976, by Godlis. Bob Dylan with Kids, Liverpool, England, 1966, by Barry Feinstein. Right: Madonna, 1983, by Amy Arbus. Copyright the photographers, courtesy Brooklyn Museum.

Image after surprising image in this gallery reveals personas before they had become molded by the fame that followed. A hipshot snap of Patti Smith outside of CBGBs in 1976 by Godlis shows the future punk icon as a regular downtowner. Amy Arbus’s carefully composed 1983 portrait of the newly blonde Madonna could hardly predict later versions of the self-made star - lionized here in Andrea Gursky’s 10-foot-high reconstruction of a 2001 arena concert. Among the more recognizable shots in this section is Astrid Kirchhers’s 1960 photo of The Beatles during their Hamburg days and David Corio’s 1979 picture of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders.

The show breaks into five more sections that attempt to organize material that is, by its nature, random and thankfully, unpredictable. But that’s fine because you will see numerous performance photos collected together. One of the most extraordinary pictures in this section is Danny Clinch’s shot from onstage looking out across the thousands of fans assembled at the 1995 Reading Festival that shows what it must feel like to be a rock star. Other sections include revealing images taken behind the scenes; portraits made without the managerial hand of handlers; and conceptual images and album covers that demonstrate the collaboration that often takes place between photographer and subject.

Billed as the first major museum show on rock photography, the exhibition collects 175 images by 105 photograpers and spans the history of the genre from a 1966 shot of Jimmi Hendrix backing Wilson Pickett, by William “Popsie” Randolph to Ari Marcopoulos’s back view of the artfully tattooed Alice Temple. The book of the same title (Random House 2009) by Gail Buckland presents the same images and more in a different arrangement that organizes the work by photographers, portfolio style.

In addition to the photographs, there are mnitors playing music videos of Bjork, U2 and David Bowie. There is also a slideshow featuring the works of Henry Diltz, who has photographed many artists such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Doors and Tina Turner.

Who Shot Rock & Roll, closes Sunday, January 31st. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY. The next stop on the national tour is the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, March 5 - May 30, 2010. Click for later tour dates.


Gary Taxali at Narwhal Art Projects

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 27, 2010

Gary Taxali is a master of communications - especially when it comes to the absurdities of life. Delving into the most basic forms of popular culture for inspiration, he elevates the comics genre and in the process creates single images that skewer popular assumptions with wit and whimsey. Steven Heller says of Gary’s work, “[he] visually blends now with then. His style, inspired by vintage comics and advertising art, is…at once alluring and endearing. Despite the vintage look, he is neither maudlin nor nostalgic. His imagery is rich in satiric verve.”

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Four of the 340 illustrations by Gary Taxali on view at Narwhal Art Projects, in Toronto, Ontario, through the end of February.

In the course of his career, Gary has created thousands of images on assignment to top national magazines, including Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire, Time, and McSweeney’s, to name a few. This week, the first exhibition of his illustrations for print publications - a select group of 340 in all - goes on view at Narwhal Art Projects, in Toronto.

I caught up with Gary by by phone today to find out more about his work and process. Here’s the conversation.

Peggy Roalf: What’s your favorite kind of assignment?

Gary Taxali:
The ones that have a human element to them. For example, in a business article, when there’s a human touch to the story it gives me a lot of possibilities to deal with human behavior, which helps me come up with interesting concepts. If it’s an article about a company merger that deals with how it affects employees and their bosses, that gives me a more interesting way of illustrating what could be mere facts.

PR:
Of all the publications that have folded in the last couple of years, was there one in particular that was really fun to work for?

GT: Sadly there’s a handful that were a joy to work with, but in particular I really enjoyed doing illustrations for Nickelodeon. it was a great magazine to work with because they dealt with topics that offered a lot of visual possibilities for me to exercise my imagination. For example, a series that I illustrated was about how to be a cartoon character. One of the things I came up with was this: if you can make your eyes bug out of your head, you’re a cartoon character.

PR: Do you ever put yourself into the shoes of the character in a story you’re illustrating? For example, have you ever climbed a mountain, kayaked to a remote island or sneaked onto the commodities trading floor just to get into the spirit of an assignment?

GT: I’ve never done any of those things but have illustrated all of them. At the same time the things I really enjoy doing, such as yoga and DJing, are things that I’ve never illustrated.

PR: So what’s the thing about illustrators and DJing? Seems it’s become an epidemic.

GT: You know I have a theory about that. As in all aspect of the arts there’s a connection to music. I’ve never met an artist who wasn’t passionate about music. I think any chance that we have to get out of the studio is always looked upon favorably and therefore DJing is a natural source of amusement and joy for a lot of illustrators.

PR: What’s your favorite time of day for drawing and painting?

GT: Every day, all day.

PR:
The characters you create really lend themselves to the idea of childrens’ picture books. When you were working on your first kid book, coming out this summer, what was the most challenging thing about doing a book as opposed to a single page of art?

GT: The writing was challenging because even though they’re my words, at the same time I had to think in a sequential form, from spread to spread. Also having the illustrations make sense with the text was a challenging and fun part of the process.

PR: Do you mainly draw and paint directly on paper or board?

GT: Yes, I only use the computer to email sketches and finals to clients.

PR: What’s your favorite kind of paper or board to work on?

GT: I love working on found paper and old book covers. There’s a special beauty in an old aged piece of paper that can’t be mimicked, and that offers infinite possibilities for creating imagery.

PR: What’s the strangest and/or oldest tool you use - and love - and why?

GT:
I have a screen printing kit called Gocco. The one I use has a dirty and scratched plastic surface so it makes for the irregular adhesion of ink on paper. I love that quality because it helps me achieve an aged look in the art.

PR: Do you collect printed matter and ephemera for inspiration and how do you organize it?

GT: Absolutely. I have so many old childrens’ books and text books and strange and bizarre pamphlets and recipe books that I’ve acquired at flea markets and antique stores and estate sales. There’s so much that I have them organized first by size, then by the color of the book jackets, then by the color of the paper. It’s purely visual and memory based.

PR:
What do you listen to while you work?

GT: I listen to everything from 1930s American blues to punk rock as well NPR (National Public Radio).

PR: What’s the nicest thing an art director ever said to you?

GT: I did the cover and the inside illustrations for Aimee Mann’s last CD, which was nominated for 2009 Grammy for Best Art Package. When I sent her the art, she sent an email that said, “These are so good my stomach hurts.”

PR: What’s the nicest thing you ever said to an art director?

GT:
I once did an illustration for John Korpics at Esquire, and when I submitted the art I included a note that said, “Thank you for making me a better illustrator.” It was as if he knew the perfect things to say in his art direction, which helped me really tap into the best part of who I am as an illustrator.

The Taxali 300 opens January 28th at Narwhal Art Projects and continues through February 28. The opening reception is this Thursday from 6 to 9 pm. 680 Queens Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Gary Taxali will give a talk in the gallery on Monday, February 22nd, from 7 to 9 pm. Admission is $10 or $5 with student I.D. Please rsvp to 647-346-5317 or contact@narwhalartprojects.com to reserve a ticket.

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Antique Eye Candy at The Armory

By Peggy Roalf   Monday January 25, 2010

The Winter Antiques Show is one of the most delicious visual overindulgences on the calendar of art fairs and shows. In these belt-tightening times, the only difference this year seems to be the lack of over-the-top floral arrangements that typically characterize the annual event. Instead there were arrangements of orchids, appropriately meager by comparison, ready and able to take on future assignments once the show closes. Feast your eyes on some of the displays in the gallery of images below, and get there if you can. There’s nothing like extreme luxury to lift the spirits on a windy winter day.

The Winter Antiques Show continues at the Park Avenue Armory through January 31, 2010. Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York, NY. Tickets, $20, can be purchased at the door or in advance online. Lectures presented by Historic New England, free and open to the public with admission, are on a first come, first served basis.

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Row 1, left to right: Carved and polychrome wood sculpture at Peter Petrou; At Lost City Arts, a monumental dandelion sculpture created by Harry Bertoia for the Eastman Kodak Pavilion at the 1964 New York City World’s Fair; cast iron elk, made around 1903 for the Elks Club in Johnston, Pennsylvania at James and Nancy Glazer. Row 2: Hans P. Kraus’s installation of images by the British inventor of photography William Henry Fox Talbot; Elle Shushan created a room that echoes the home of a wealthy 18th-century Bostonian; folk art at Robert Young Antiques. Row 3: A view down the north aisle; tribal arts at Donald Ellis Gallery Ltd.; trade signs and a portrait at Suzanne Courcier | Robert W. Wilkins. Photos: Peggy Roalf

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Art for the Sake of Artists

By Peggy Roalf   Friday January 22, 2010

“Buy what you love” is the advice given to new collectors by many art consultants. Now is the time to take action because 200 affordable artworks by established and emerging artists from around the world will go on sale next Thursday at Jack Shainman Gallery. This collection of works on paper, collages and mixed media pieces, are all the same size - 8 ½ by 11 inches. The sale benefits the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, which gives substantial grants to artists and offers financial aid to people battling cancer.

The art for this benefit was created in response to a call for entries last fall. When it was announced in DART, the reaction was quick and decisive: more than 30 artist/subscribers contacted the Foundation for the entry kit that afternoon.

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A few of the 200 works of art from the Buy What You Love benefit next Thursday night.

What will make this sale especially fun is the fact that the art remains anonymous until it has been sold. And every piece of art goes for the same price - but you’ll have to attend the event to find out what that magic number is. It’s just $20 at the door to get in, and well worth the good your money will do.

Buy What You Love at Jack Shainman Gallery, Thursday January 28th from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. 513 West 20th Street, near 10th Avenue, New York, NY.

The Foundation is looking for some volunteers to help work the room next Thursday night. It’s a chance to mingle with artists and collectors while manning the wine bar, wrapping the artworks or helping to dismantle the show. Please email the Foundation to sign up for the early shift (5:30-8 pm) or the second slot (8-10 pm).

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At Home After the Photographers Leave

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday January 21, 2010

There’s hardly anything more stately than a fabulous residence photographed by a great architectural photographer. Think of Julius Schulman’s photographs of the Kaufmann Desert House designed by Richard Neutra in Palm Springs; or Todd Eberle’s shots of Mitch Glazer & Kelly Lynch’s equally grand house in the Hollywood Hills, designed by John Lautner.

Anyone who enviously pours over the “Home” section of the New York Times, and Dwell magazine, knows in their hearts that domestic perfection on this order is for others, not themselves. And everyone who has let their domestic helpers go to save some money knows for sure that the photographs that grace those pages are set up, like film stills, to provoke longing and just enough self-loathing to bring on a round of shopping and decorating.

If this sums up your stance on the home front, a series of movies by Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine that opened last night at Storefront for Art and Architecture will confirm your position and calm your anxieties. One in particular, Koolhaas Houselife, is about the residence designed by the great Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas for the family of the publisher Jean-Francoise Limone, in Bordeaux, France. Rarely seen here, and hard to find on DVD, the short film has become a cult classic, especially among students of architecture.

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Film stills from Koolhaas Houselife, now showing at Storefront for Art & Architectures.

The house has been designed with technological innovations that range from a room-size platform that serves as a three-story elevator to enabled the owner, confined to a wheelchair, to circulate unimpeded throughout the house. As described by architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, The building is set into a hill with panoramic views of the Bordeaux countryside and the Garonne River. Glass walls open to the spectacular vista, eliminating any sense of enclosure or confinement. The structural engineering - a cantilevered slab anchored to the ground by an enormous beam - is as startlingly unconventional as the plan.

The film, made by the owner’s daughters, who grew up there, shows what it is really like to live in an architectural treasure. It follows the daily routine of the housekeeper, Guadeloupe Acedo, a self-styled domestic engineer who is adept at finding just the right workaround to manage the innovations that elevate this building to an art form. Containing leaks that often becomes torrents; hauling a vacuum cleaner up a spiral stair whose treads are no wider than her footprint; opening a door that is operated - or not - by a joystick rather than a key - these are some of the acrobatics that never come into play in glossy magazine layouts.

One of the film’s highlights is an interview with the architect, who basically condemns criticism of “post occupancy” dysfunction as a form of ignorance. With charming candor, the film offers a reality check to this high minded assessment as it chronicles Guadelupe Acedo’s battle with a house that fights her at every turn.

Living Architures: Four Films by Ila Beka and Louise Limoine, on view through Feburary 26th at Storefront for Art and Architecture. 97 Kenmare Street, just east of Centre Street, New York, NY. 212.431.5795. Winter hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm.


PhotoForce Pro Bono in Portland

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 20, 2010

What do you do when the economic downturn downsizes your workload and your prospects? If you’re creative, dedicated, and motivated, like a group of photographers in Portland, Oregon, you get together and offer services to a worthwhile non-profit organization. Here’s a report by Lisa Scardina, whose husband Steve is one of the organizers of PhotoForce, which opens an exhibition of their work for the Oregon Food Bank (OFB) tomorrow night. - PR

When the economic downturn started to hit the creative community hard last year, a group of five photographers who are regular contributors to Portland Monthly magazine, met, shared ideas and decided that perhaps there could be some advantage to working together instead of against each other for photo assignments.

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Photos, left to right by Steven Scardina, Daniel Root and Brian Lee. Copyright the photographers, courtesy PhotoForce.

The group, called PhotoForce, consists of Steven Scardina, Lincoln Barbour, Brian Lee, Stuart Mullenberg and Daniel Root, all looking for new ways to tell stories and connect with their community in open assignments that would spark new ideas - and make pro-bono work for non-profits a priority.

Steve has been an active volunteer for the St. Vincent DePaul food pantry, stocking the shelves with regular visits to Oregon Food Bank. He knew of the scope and impact of their work and also that Oregon has one of the highest rates of hunger in the nation. He shared this information with the group and they all agreed that it was the right kind of assignment.

“It was hard to believe that some of the top shooters in town would call us up and offer to do this,” said Amber Stinson, public relations associate for OFB. “When we first talked about the assignment, I told them about all of the different facets of our work, from working cooperatively with farmers, to the food production companies that support our work, to the statewide network of food pantries to the thousands of families who need and receive this food. They got it - and got to work.”

Daniel Root traveled to Canby, Hillsboro and Ontario, staying in cheap motels and meeting people along the way. He saw first-hand the families arriving at the food pantry and packing their boxes with the food they needed for the week. He stopped in at the Sisters of the Road Cafe, where meals are served for the needy every day.

Stuart Mullenberg and Brian Lee traveled together to Echo, Oregon to visit a farm that donates vegetables to the food bank. While some of their images are of the same subject, they couldn’t be more different. Lee captured black and white imagery of trucks filled with fresh carrots. Mullenberg grabbed color portraits of the farm workers. And Lincoln Barbour found himself documenting the warehouses and other locations where the food is trucked and stored.

“One of the best things about this assignment is having a group of other photographers to share your work with and get some feedback. We were all able to test new techniques and get feedback from other photographers that we really respect,” said Mullenberg. And, thanks to the support of ProPhoto Supply of Portlalnd, the photographers were able to try out some new lenses and other equipment along the way.

The opening reception for the exhibition is Thursday, January 21st from 5 to 10 pm at Venue Pearl, 323 NW 13th Avenue Portland, Oregon. Visitors are encouraged to bring canned goods which will be distributed by OFB. Click to visit the PhotoForce website.


Beth Dow’s Ruins at Jen Bekman

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday January 19, 2010

Last week DART experienced some technical problems. In the course of retrenching, I overlooked some important information in Thursday’s post: Photographer Beth Dow is represented in New York City by Jen Bekman. Having seen her work myself, I can say that the prints must be seen to be appreciated.

Here is a look at Dow’s recent series, Ruins, accompanied by an extract from the artist’s statement.

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Left: Colosseum. Right: Trojan Horse. Copyright the artist, courtesy Jen Bekman.

These are the first photographs in a new portfolio that looks at the ways we appropriate and approximate the romance of ruins into modern American environments, and what this says about our longing for historic precedents. While genuine ruins remind us of our own mortality, they also suggest the opposite by showing it’s possible to endure, even if only in a reduced and degraded form.

I have been looking at [19th-century] photographs by Francis Frith, Felix Bonfils, and Giorgio Sommer, as well as sepia ink and wash drawings by Claude Lorrain, a 17th century artist who used classical ruins to create ideal scenes of pastoral splendor. My pictures of faked antiquities are an attempt to evoke nostalgia for inaccurate history, to wrestle with ideas of authenticity, and to question the value we place on Classical ideals. It is natural to challenge the relevance of nostalgic longing, and I exploit this dynamic in my contemporary landscapes.

I approach these pictures as a tourist. These real sites are all shot with a hand-held medium format camera, and include whatever clutter exists around the actual subjects. I also use a slightly wide-angle lens to exploit the sense of disorder through converging verticals. People mill around as they do in Frith’s photographs. Life goes on. Unlike the heavily retouched wet-collodion/albumen originals, my film records clouds and other details, so I leave it all in. As my original references are beautiful objects, I honor that beauty by using the Victorian hand-coated platinum process. Platinum is rare, precious, and the most permanent photographic printing medium - an apt metaphor for my search for the authentic and enduring.

Beth Dow’s luminous platinum palladium prints can be seen by appointment at Jen Bekman, 6 Spring Street, New York, NY. 212.219.0166. Take a look at Dow’s prints available through Bekman’s 20×200 project.


In the Garden of the Sublime: Beth Dow

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 13, 2010

If I were lucky enough to be Alice and fall through a rabbit hole, in my wildest dream I would land in Beth Dow’s photographic series titled In the Garden. I would stroll through image after luminous image, savouring the humid warmth of an overcast summer day in Hampshire, marveling at the intimate spaces she carves out of whole scenes that surround her.

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Left to right; Topiary, Barnsley House; Passage, Levens Hall; Trees, Blenheim Palace. From the series, In the Garden. Copyright Beth Dow, courtesy Joseph Bellows Gallery.

The images, which are edgy and sometimes a little noirish, are etched by a kind of natural light that many photographers would consider undesirable for black-and-white work: bright afternoon sun veiled by high clouds that create a milky haze above, and a near lack of shadows on the ground. And they are printed in a traditional process - platinum-palladium - that recalls an earlier time. By consistently working within this framework, Dow has created a camera vision that reminds me of the great British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot’sThe Pencil of Nature. explorations in

That notion sent me to the bookshelf for my copy of an issue of Aperture celebrating the 200th anniversary of Fox Talbot’s birth. In an essay by Mark Haworth-Booth was a quote that bridges the centuries. When speaking with a group of London scientists in 1839, Fox Talbot (1800-1877) told the story of his invention of photography as if it were a fairy tale. He said, “It is a little bit of magic realized: of natural magic. You make the powers of nature work for you, and no wonder that your work is well and quickly done….But after all, what is nature but one great field of wonders past our comprehension.”

Dow, a native of Minneapolis, moved to London for several years in the early 1990s. She began photographing formal gardens at great houses, a long term project she has returned to in subsequent visits. In this series, the consistency of the light and the print quality create a sharply defined and somewhat otherworldly aura. In Yew, Hinton Ampner, a conifer stands sentinel before a claustrophobically framed lawn surrounded by a low hedge. The glare of sunlight selectively bleaches tall oak trees, whose forms recall the landscapes paintings Thomas Gainsborough made in the 1760s. But Dow’s representations are absolutely contemporary, and some reminded me of the ominous topiary maze in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. Dow’s point of view for Trees, Blenheim Palace, combined with her signature light, conspires to virtually eliminate shadows from the scene. This formal device is also evident in Lawn, Hall Place, in which benches placed some distance apart seem ready to welcome ghostly visitors to the nearly shadowless expanse of lawn.

Hillside, Waddesdon Manor, reminded me of Wynn Bullock’s Enchanted Landscape, but filtered through the stomach-churning opening sequence in Michaelangelo Antononi’s 1966 film, Blow-Up. A row of still trees towering over a marble statue, itself hemmed in by converging slopes, seem about to be whipped into a frenzy by an oncoming summer storm. That a straight-on view of trees, grass and statuary could create such a vertiginous effect is the work of a master.

A strong narrative thread of events, of people and places, and of photographic history runs through In the Garden. And whether Beth Dow has considered the ideas of W.H. Fox Talbot or not is beside the point. For anyone interested in alternate versions of the sublime, looking at these pictures is both engrossing and delightful. And for those who have a library of photograph books at hand, looking at these pictures inspires a visit to a treasured volume for further immersion in the camera arts.

This article first appeared in Hotshoe International. Beth Dow: In the Garden was presented by Joseph Bellows Gallery last spring. The book, In the Garden, which won the 2008 Photography.Book.Now.com, is available online. Visit Beth Dow’s website.

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